Coronavirus: BioNTech says vaccine safe for kids 5 to 11

Published : September 21, 2021 13:47 IST

Most Western countries have not yet vaccinated young children. Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa/picture alliance

The announcement comes as coronavirus cases among children surge in the United States and other parts of the world.

Pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and Pfizer said September 20 that their jointly produced coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective for chilldren from the ages of 5 to 11.

What did the companies say?

"In participants 5 to 11 years of age, the vaccine was safe, well-tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses," Germany-based BioNTech and US pharma giant Pfizer said in a joint statement. The two firms said that they would hand over trial data to regulatory bodies in the E.U., U.S. and other parts of the world "as soon as possible." Over 2,200 children took part in the trial.

The children in the vaccine trial received two doses of 10 micrograms, spaced 21 days apart. Older age groups typically receive two shots of 30 micrograms. The smaller dosage meant the children experienced fewer side effects, such as sore arms or achiness, than older age groups.

Coronavirus cases surge among children

The statement comes as coronavirus cases among children surge in the United States and in other parts of the world. "We are eager to extend the protection afforded by the vaccine to this younger population," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said, while adding that "since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen about 240 percent in the U.S."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 12. Other vaccine makers, such as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are also testing their jabs on younger children.

The vaccine could greatly faciliate the safe return of school children to in-person classes around the globe. Many Western nations have been reluctant to give jabs to children due to the lack of available data on safety and efficacy.

Israel, however, has already greenlit vaccinations for children aged 5-11 who are at risk of serious illness from the virus. Cuba has vaccinated children as young as two in order to reopen schools. Although data may show the vaccine is effective and safe for children, some parents may still be reluctant for their kids to receive the jab. This reluctance could pose a major challenge for inoculation campaigns.

wd/rt (AP, AFP)